The arrival of malted corn is one of the more intriguing recent developments in North American brewing—and, at times, it neatly combines the rising interest in craft lager with that of craft malt.
While brewing with corn is nothing new—it’s an ancient practice in the Americas, and it’s been an important adjunct in American lager for more than 140 years—the process of malting different corn varieties, including some almost-forgotten heirloom types, has created what is essentially a new ingredient. While maltsters and brewers are still figuring out how to get the most from malted corn, we’re encouraged by what we’ve tasted so far.
Malted corn isn’t an easy ingredient to work with—but for a few tips, see the recipe below from Seattle’s Holy Mountain. The brewery recently experimented with malted Oaxacan Green corn, produced at Indiana’s Sugar Creek Malting, by incorporating it into their Mexican-inspired, Vienna-style lager.
The beer was a success: “We moved through that beer really fast,” says lead brewer Kenneth Sorenson. They’ve since brewed La Vienna Especial again with the malted corn; they had previously used flaked corn instead. However, “the malted corn definitely provided some flavor,” Sorenson says. “Flaked corn is more simple-sugary, while the malted Oaxacan Green corn provides an earthy sweetness.”
Batch size: 5 gallons (19 liters)
Brewhouse efficiency: 72%